KLAGENFURT, Austria – KAC Klagenfurt won the Austrian championship for the 30th time and for the first time since 2009. The Carinthians swept the Vienna Capitals 4-0 in the final series of the EBEL.
Klagenfurt has been among the top teams in the recent years but has only won two titles in the last decade, in 2004 and 2009. Now they have added a 30th national championship since winning their first in 1934.
Klagenfurt was the third-seeded team in the play-offs where they defeated the Graz 99ers (4-1) and the Black Wings Linz (4-2) in the first two rounds of the Austrian-based, multinational league.
The Vienna Capitals on the other side were the regular-season winners. In the quarter-finals they eliminated Orli Znojmo (4-1), a club that joined the EBEL coming from the Czech second-tier league, and in the semi-finals Red Bull Salzburg (4-2), one of the favourites and one of the richest teams in the league. But after a successful first two rounds the final series became a frustrating one for the Capitals.
Despite outshooting Klagenfurt 37-27 in game one in Vienna, it was KAC that won the game 1-0 thanks to Martin Schumnig’s game-winner midway through the game and an excellent performance from goalkeeper René Swette.
For Capitals head coach Tommy Samuelsson this was the turning point since it didn’t get any better for his team.
It continued to be a tight affair in the second game. Jamie Fraser tied Klagenfurt’s lead after the opening marker from Raphael Herburger, but John Lammers scored the game winner at 5:26 of the extra time.
7,000 fans in Vienna also had to go home without seeing a single goal from their team in game three. Again the Capitals outshot their opponent, 29-27, and again Klagenfurt capitalized better on their chances with two goals from Michael Siklenka and one each from Thomas Hundertpfund and Tyler Scofield in the 4-0 win.
“We went game by game and knew every game starts at 0-0 no matter what,” Manuel Geier said. “We wanted to win every game and it worked out.”
The surprise 3-0 series lead gave Klagenfurt the opportunity to end the best-of-seven finals on home ice before 5,080 fans at the sold-out Stadthalle. François Fortier made it a 2-0 lead for the visiting team after nine minutes. It was also the first time the Vienna Capitals had taken the lead in the whole series.
However, Klagenfurt’s top players made up for the early mistakes. With a converted penalty shot at 14:17 and with a power-play goal midway through the second period, Tyler tied the game at two, and 36 seconds later Hundertpfund made it a 3-2 lead. Lammers added another power-play marker in the third period but Vienna’s Adrian Veideman made it a one-goal game with four minutes left in regulation time.
The Capitals tried hard but eventually Klagenfurt managed to defend its net in the dying minutes of the game and Jamie Lundmark’s empty-net goal sealed the 5-3 win and the championship for KAC.
“We bought in the system,” Kirk Furey said about the key to the win. “Every guy did his job. It was not perfect all the time but if you do it at a consistent basis it works out in the end. Fortunately we came out on top.”
“We played with passion and heart,” said Martin Schumnig. “We wanted to win it and gave everything for it and that’s why we won the games.”
The league included 12 teams from five countries this season but of the eight playoffs teams six were from Austria. Croatian club Medvescak Zagreb, which hit the headlines with high attendance numbers throughout the year and two games in the Roman amphitheatre of Pula, was the best foreign team in the league. It finished the regular-season in fourth place but lost to Red Bull Salzburg in the quarter-finals.
Czech participant Znojmo Orli was seventh, Olimpija Ljubljana from Slovenia ninth and Fehervar from Hungary 11th.
It was a different story in the new U20 league (Young Stars League) where two foreign teams battled for the trophy. There it was Znojmo and Fehervar that ended up playing in the best-of-three finals and it was the Hungarians that won the deciding game in overtime with Arnold Varga’s goal at 19:27 of the extra period.
After the end of the season it was also time for the foreign EBEL teams to play for their national championships.
In Slovenia Olimpija Ljubljana defeated Mladi Jesenice in the semi-finals and plays Slavija Ljubljana in the best-of-three final series. Olimpija won the first game on Sunday 4-1.
Medvescak Zagreb won the Croatian final 3-2 against Mladost Zagreb. Since 1997 the “Bears” have won the national title in each year except 2008 when Mladost won.